The record of the Ontario Liberal Party in governing has been abysmal. Scandal after scandal, waste, graft, incompetence, gross negligence, and favouritism all highlight this. No matter how hard the opposition parties try, issues have largely washed off the backs of the government like a teflon-coated duck, leading to their reelection. This will continue in the run up to the 2018 election with Kathleen Wynne remaining in power for five key reasons.
5. 15 more seats – Before the 1999 provincial election, then-Premier Mike Harris contracted the size of Queen’s Park from 130 members of provincial parliament to 103 reflecting federal boundaries. The seat count went up to 107 in 2004 and 122 in 2015. In the 2018 election, the 15 additional seats in urban and suburban Ontario will vote Liberal as they did federally in 2015. It would take a strong push to elect an opposition party to swing those ridings. Even if only half of the 15 new seats went to the provincial Liberals, it could make the difference for the party.
4. Beer in grocery stores, pot in the LCBO – Focus on the vices to make people forget their woes. It is a classic bait-and-switch by progressives. Freeing up restrictions on beer is not a bad thing. But every time Wynne wants to dodge a real political bullet, a straw man is set up to take attention away from it. In this case, beer sales. Prohibition has been dead in Ontario for nearly 90 years, yet sales of beer are still an issue. Placing pot in the LCBO, when and if it becomes legal, is another strategy to deflect attention on some real issue. Straw man politik bodes well for the Liberals as it makes them look like they are actually doing something.
3. The 18-month memory – Modern political theory is the record of any sitting government is judged on the last 18-months in power. Stephen Harper’s reign was seen as disingenuous in their attempts to buy votes with our tax dollars. It looked contrite with actions of “defending” Canadian values, from court cases over niqabs and new laws reacting to every hot-button issue of the day. Ernie Eves was voted out in 2003 the same way, as was the NDP in BC and Saskatchewan and likely in Manitoba soon. To win, governments need to make “tough choices” in the first two years, so there are two years for voters to forget. If Wynne can keep the issues to a minimum from 2017 until voting day, she will be reelected.
2. The Shiny Pony – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have been in office for three years when Wynne seeks re-election and the two leaders will remain buddy-buddy during that period. Trudeau’s regressive energy and taxation policies will affect western Canada far more than it does Ontario. His poling numbers in Ontario will be stable with his politics of style over substance. Wynne will ride on his electoral coat-tails. Where Trudeau goes, Wynne will follow because both (and Dalton McGuinty) have the same handlers to thank for their success.
1. The Progressive Conservatives – Opposition candidates win with a clear message and direction of what they stand for. A message that is easily repeated, and repeated often. Since taking over as leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative party, leader Patrick Brown has not done any of this. Interviews by Brown complaining about the government are akin to the trombone sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher in Peanuts. There is noise, but nothing much is said; Trudeau-esque double speak at best. If voters in Ontario want that, they’ll vote to keep Wynne. Brown will follow in the line of Hudak, Tory and Eves to the dustbin of PC leaders who fail to take advantage of the opportunities of Liberal ineptitude.
If you are a conservative in Ontario, or feel you should be allowed to keep some of the money you work for, prepare yourself. We’re in for a long, long, bumpy ride.